Nasal congestion is the accumulation of fluid in the blood vessels and tissues within the nose. It usually produces an uncomfortable stuffy sensation and may be accompanied by discharge. In young children, it may cause breathing difficulties affecting sleep and feeding.
Nasal congestion may be caused by infections, allergies or anything that irritates the nasal tissues. It may be associated with sinusitis, enlarged adenoids, a deviated nasal septum, tobacco smoke, dry air, stress, thyroid disorders, the use of certain medications etc. It may rarely be caused by a tumor or polyp. Some people can have chronic nasal congestion for no apparent reason, a condition called nonallergic rhinitis.
Nasal congestion is usually a temporary annoyance, but could rarely indicate a serious underlying condition. Babies with nasal congestion need to be watched carefully. If symptoms last more than 10 days or accompanies a fever, yellow-green or bloody nasal discharge, sinus pain or a head injury, you should contact your doctor. Your doctor will review your symptoms, perform a physical examination and may perform some tests if necessary. You will receive treatment to help you with your symptoms as well as specific treatment for any underlying conditions.
To ease symptoms at home you may try:
- Gently blowing your nose
- A bulb syringe to clear a baby’s nose
- Nasal saline drops or sprays
- Drinking plenty of water to help thin your secretions
- Avoiding irritants such as tobacco smoke, known allergens or abrupt changes in humidity.